Following yet another disappointing campaign for Edmonton in 2015-16, GM Peter Chiarelli orchestrated several changes to his team’s roster this offseason in an effort to build a playoff contender. Chiarelli dealt away two former first overall draft picks, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov (receiving Adam Larsson, a marginal prospect and a conditional draft choice in return), while signing free agents Milan Lucic and Kris Russell in free agency. Many in the hockey community at large weren’t particularly fond of Chiarelli’s moves and while it’s far too early to make any definitive judgement, through two games Lucic and Russell have done exactly what the Oilers and Chiarelli hoped for, as David Staples of the Edmonton Journal writes.
Staples has been tracking scoring chances for and against for every Oilers skater through two games. His research shows that Connor McDavid, who has simply been phenomenal already with six points on the young season, has been Edmonton’s best player by far, helping to generate better than six more scoring chances for than against, per 15 minutes of ice time. Lucic is second in that category with a differential of 4.82. Russell leads the defense corps with a 2.34 differential per 15 minutes of ice time. Incredibly, Russell has yet to make a single error leading to an opposition scoring chance through two games, based on Staples’ tracking.
Again, it’s too early to conclude anything for certain but the early returns on Lucic and Russell have to be encouraging for Chiarelli and Co. Obviously this team will only go as far as their superstar captain McDavid will lead, but should his two prized free agent acquisitions continue to perform at this level, Edmonton might yet prove the pundits wrong and compete for a playoff spot in 2016-17.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
- Could the Anaheim Ducks soon find themselves at a crossroads with a roster core too old to compete for a Stanley Cup? Eric Stepens, who covers the team, asks that question in a post that appears in the Los Angeles Daily News. Stephens notes that the team’s three best forwards, Ryan Getzlaf (31), Corey Perry (31) and Ryan Kesler (32) are all on the wrong side of 30. At the same time, many of the league’s top stars – Johnny Gaudreau (23), McDavid (19), Auston Matthews (19) – are in their early-20’s or even younger. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler also account for $23.75MM, or nearly one-third of this year’s salary cap, now that Kesler’s massive extension kicked in. These commitments leaves less space for the Ducks to flesh out the rest of their roster with quality talent as evidenced by their struggles to reach agreements with restricted free agents Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm.
- After being released from his PTO with Florida, Adam Pardy has agreed to sign an AHL deal with the Panthers organization, tweets Harvey Fialkov. Pardy will report to Springfield and provide an experienced blue line depth option for Florida. He has appeared in 338 NHL games over parts of eight seasons. Pardy previously has seen action in the league with Calgary, Buffalo, Edmonton, Dallas and Winnipeg.
- New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault was quite specific in how he put his forward lines together to start the 2016-17 campaign. By design, the team would ice three lines capable of scoring while the fourth line was to be comprised of “penalty killers and defensive specialists.” But after introducing rookies Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey to the lineup, a couple of skilled veterans slid down the depth chart and onto the team’s fourth line. As Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post writes, the presence of Brandon Pirri and Michael Grabner at the bottom of the Rangers lineup has already paid dividends for the Blue Shirts. Grabner, a once tallied 34 goals as a member of the Islanders, netted the first marker of the season for the Rangers. Pirri, meanwhile, assisted on Grabner’s goal and potted his first as a New York Ranger on the power play. As long as the duo remain defensively-responsible, their ability to put the puck in the net will be welcome on the teams fourth line.